The U.S. Congress opens a new legislative session tomorrow with a new dynamic that will put to test the Republican leadership’s ability to govern with President Barack Obama.
The November election gave the opposition majorities in both chambers of Congress. This will allow them to drive the political agenda and control the legislation that is sent to the White House.
The Republicans’ goal is to show that they are capable of governing without provoking a government shutdown.
Ideally, they would seek common-interest policies to be negotiated with the White House in order to promulgate as many laws as possible benefiting most Americans. This is what most Americans expect.
However, a Tea Party-linked conservative sector of increasing influence thinks that negotiation amounts to treason and a show of weakness, and that they need to faithfully follow an ideological agenda regardless of the possibilities of reaching a deal with the President. They say that this is how they respond to their voters and create an agenda that would allow Republicans to win the White House in 2016.
On the other side is the President in a new role after the change in the balance of power, liberated from the constraints of the electoral calculations. He cannot impose the political agenda, but he can stop the approved projects with his veto. Republicans do not have enough majorities in the House or the Senate to override the presidential veto.
It all depends on the priorities established by Congress. Unfortunately, things don’t look good. Repealing Obamacare, blocking the executive orders on immigration and opening relations with Cuba, energy sector and Wall Street deregulation, and Keystone pipeline do not allow space for negotiation.
Republicans need to show that they are the reasonable ones and that the obstructionist is the president. To do so they need disciplined ranks and a more inclusive agenda than the one pushed inflexibly by the Tea Party-allied sector.